AL-MUMTAHANA


Madīnah Period

Revealed in Madīnah between the Treaty of Hudaybiyah and the conquest of Makkah, this sūrah has 13 verses. It derives its name from the tenth verse, which commands that women who have declared their conversion to Islam and emigrated to Madīnah should be tested as to whether they are true. The sūrah also deals with what the Muslims’ relations with their disbelieving enemies should be.


  1. O you who believe! Do not take My enemies and your enemies for friends, of- fering them love and affection, while they have disbelieved in the truth that has come to you and driven the Messenger and yourselves away (from your homes) only because you believe in God, your Lord (Who has created you and sustains you). If you (now) have set forth (from your homes) to strive in My way and to seek My approval and good pleasure, (then do not take them for friends). You reveal to them your secret in secrecy out of your love and friendship, but I am better aware (than yourselves) of what you do in secret as well as of what you disclose. Whoever does so among you has surely strayed from the right way.1
    1. When the Treaty of Hudaybiyah was violated by the attack of the Banū Bakr, an ally of the Makkan polytheists, on the Banu Khudā’ah, an ally of the Muslims, resulting in some of the latter being killed, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, began to prepare for war. As always, he kept the affair quite secret and no one, including his wives and closest friends, knew where the campaign would be. However, an emigrant named Khatīb ibn Abī Balta’ah guessed the intention of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He sent a letter to the Quraysh, informing them of the Messenger’s preparations. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was told of this through a Revelation, and ordered ‘Ali, Zubayr ibn al-’Awwām and Miqdād ibn ‘Amr to take the letter from the woman to whom Khatīb had entrusted it. They did this successfully. When questioned about why he had written this letter, Khatīb excused himself by saying that he had family members in Makkah and desired their protection. Since this was not ill-intended treachery and Khatīb was one who had proved that he was a sincere Muslim by participating in the Battle of Badr, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, forgave him (Ibn Hishām, 2: 39–42). The verse is about this incident and intends to warn the Muslims against similar events.
    2. Should they gain the upper hand over you, they will be to you as enemies (not friends), and stretch forth their hands and tongues against you with malice, and they long for you to disbelieve.
 
    1. Your relatives will be of no benefit to you, nor even your children, on the Day of Resurrection. God will distinguish and part you from each other (according to how you believed and acted in the world).2 God sees well all that you do.

2. See 2: 166; 6: 94; 80: 37.

    1. Indeed, you have had an excellent example to follow in Abraham and those in his company, when they said to their (idolatrous) people (who were their kin): “We are quit of you and whatever you worship besides God. We have rejected you (in your polytheism), and there has arisen between us and you enmity and hate forever until you believe in God alone (as the only One to be worshipped.” (So it was) except for Abraham’s saying to his father: “I most surely will plead for God’s forgiveness for you, though I have no power at all to do anything for you against God.”3 (And their prayer was:) “O Our Lord! It is in You that We have put our trust, and it is to You that we turn in utmost sincerity and devotion; and to You is the homecoming.

3. This saying of Abraham, upon him be peace, should be considered and evaluated togeth- er with 9: 114: The prayer of Abraham for the forgiveness of his father was only because of a promise which he had made to him. But when it became clear that he was an enemy of God, he (Abraham) dissociated himself from him. Abraham was most tender-hearted, most clement.” For the identity of Abraham’s father, see 9: 114, note 25.

    1. “O Our Lord! Do not make us a prey to those who disbelieve (lest, in over- coming us they think their unbelief to be true and increase therein). And for- give us, our Lord (– especially those of our sins that may cause us to fall prey to those who disbelieve). You are the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.”
    2. You certainly have in them an excellent example to follow for everyone who looks forward to God and the Last Day. Whoever turns away: then (let him know that) God is He Who is the All-Wealthy and Self-Sufficient (absolutely beyond need), the All-Praiseworthy.
    3. (When you obey God in His commands and prohibitions,) it may be that God will bring about love and friendship between you and those of them with whom you are in enmity.4 God is All-Powerful, and God is All-Forgiving, All- compassionate.

4. The events that are described here began after the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. The Muslims obeyed God’s commands strictly, relayed to them by God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and it soon became clear that they were invincible, by God’s grace. In the atmosphere of peace brought about by the Treaty, many among the polytheists found op- portunity to consider Islam clearly. They were finally awakened to the truth and Islam spread widely among the Arab tribes. After the conquest of Makkah in particular, nearly

 

all the tribes embraced Islam.

    1. God does not forbid you, as regards those who do not make war against you on account of your Religion, nor drive you away from your homes, to be kindly to them, and act towards them with equity. God surely loves the scrupulously equitable.
    2. God only forbids you, as regards those who make war against you on account of your Religion and drive you away from your homes, or support others to drive you away, to take them for friends and guardians. Whoever takes them for friends and guardians, those are the wrongdoers.
    3. O you who believe! When believing women come to you as emigrants, test them;5 (though only) God knows best their faith. Then, if you have ascertained that they are believers,6 do not return them to the unbelievers. They are not (being believers) lawful (as wives) for the unbelievers, nor are the unbelievers lawful (as husbands) for them. But return to them (the unbelievers) whatever they expended (by way of bridal-due when they wed those women).7 And there will be no blame on you (O believers) if you marry them when you have given them their bridal-due. Also (on the other side), do not continue to retain disbe- lieving women in marriage, and ask for the return of whatever you expended as their bridal-due (if they remain among the unbelievers oror join them), just as the disbelieving men (whose wives have emigrated to you after embracing Is- lam) have the right to demand the return of whatever they spent. That is God’s judgment and His law; He lays down the law and judges between you. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
      1. Under the terms of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, people or tribes could join or ally them- selves with whomever they wished – to the pagan Quraysh, or the Muslims in Madīnah— and any Makkan men who defected to Madīnah would be returned. The Quraysh took this stipulation to include also married women. So when several Makkan women embraced Islam after the Treaty and emigrated to Madīnah, their return to Makkah was demanded. However, since the word “men” was used in the stipulation mentioned, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, responded that the stipulation included only the men, not the women, and he rejected the demand. This verse is concerned with these women and, of course, encompasses all women who take refuge in a Muslim land claiming that they have become Muslims and who have left their husbands on account of their religion.
      2. In order to establish whether they were believers, they were asked to swear by God. It is clear that this is a procedure of legal form and effect. It is because of this that God reminds us that it is only He who can determine whether they are true believers.
      3. Since a former husband who is not Muslim is not responsible for the breaking of the marriage contract, and it is the (newly Muslim) wife who is considered to be responsible, she has to refund the bridal-due that she received at the time of the marriage contract. If
 

the woman is unable to do that, the Muslim community (or state on behalf of the com- munity) is obliged to indemnify the former husband.

    1. If anything of the bridal-dues of your (former) disbelieving wives (who re- main among the unbelievers u or have joined them) has passed to the unbeliev- ers, and afterwards you have your turn (of victory) over them, then pay to those whose wives have gone away the equivalent of what they expended (as bridal- due).8 And keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, in Whom you are believers.

8. If the unbelievers did not return what the Muslim husbands had spent on their (former disbelieving) wives as dowry, the Muslims were to compensate this out of what the (former disbelieving) husbands had spent on their wives who had converted to Islam. Or, if the Muslims were to gain war-spoils from the unbelievers, the Muslim husbands were to be compensated out of this.

    1. O Prophet! When the believing women (who have professed Islam) come to you to swear allegiance to you – that they will never associate partners with God in any way, and will not steal, and will not commit any illegal sexual inter- course, and will not kill their children, and will not indulge in slander (such as attributing any of their children to other than their own father) that they have willfully devised, and that they will not disobey you in anything that is proper9
  • then accept their allegiance and ask God for their forgiveness. Surely God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate.

9. The stipulations are important in understanding the place of women in the Age of Igno- rance and for what purposes they were employed at that time, i.e. before Islam. It may be said that the same is true in almost every age of ignorance.

    1. O you who believe! Do not take for friends and guardians a people who have incurred God’s condemnation and punishment: (people) who are bereft of any hope in the Hereafter (because of what their wickedness has earned), just as the unbelievers are bereft of any hope of (ever seeing again) those in the graves.